Arkansas Academics for Employee Free Choice sign now

Dear Senators Lincoln and Pryor:

The undersigned faculty members work at Arkansas universities and colleges. We are writing to support passage of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act and to ask that you take another look at this legislation, see beyond the objections raised by its opponents, and consider that the proposed bill is but a modest attempt to restore workersв right to choose unionization. Many economists point to declining union membership as being a major culprit behind the increase in income and wealth disparity in the United States and note that countries with higher rates of union membership have higher standards of living.

While the policy of our country as defined by the National Labor Relations Act is to favor free choice for workers and to encourage collective bargaining as a model for labor-management relations, over the past generation more and more employers have developed strategies that effectively block workers from forming unions and winning contracts that bring better pay, benefits, and job security. Moreover, recent policies of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and interpretations from the courts, combined with minimal penalties for violations of workersв rights, have enabled employers to thwart workers who favor unionization with very little risk of punishment.

If we want to attract industries to and also promote good living standards in Arkansas, we need to support workersв rights to decide whether they want a union, and в if they do в there must be guidelines guaranteeing a first contract. The Employee Free Choice Act specifically addresses these two issues in a reasonable manner. First, if workers wish to unionize, they will have a choice of two methods to gain certification: presenting the NLRB with a majority of signed cards signaling majority support, or requesting that the NLRB hold a secret-ballot election. In either scenario it is the workers who choose, not the employer (who currently may contest the validity of the cards, demand an election, and file procedural objections, all of which delays the process and undermines the workersв choice). Second, once a union has been certified, the two sides must bargain a first contract within a timely fashion or the government will appoint an independent arbitration board whose members will resolve the dispute and produce a two-year agreement. Under the current system, while both sides are required to вbargain in good faith,в there is no mechanism to ensure a first contract, and many employers simply refuse to reach agreement with their unionized workers.

After the NLRA passed in 1935, collective bargaining functioned extremely well in some areas of the country and less well in others. Arkansas and some other states put up extra obstacles to unionization and, as a result, had a lower unionization rate. Perhaps this was a strategy to compete with other states, but it did not produce good living standards for most Arkansans. Declining unionization rates have contributed to declining living standards among working people throughout the country. It is time for those of us in the poorer states and in the better off states to join together to promote more democratic workplaces as a new strategy toward prosperity and better living standards.

We in Arkansas need to move toward an economy with high educational levels and high creativity levels. Freedom of workers and professionals to participate actively in their workplaces, to speak freely, and to join unions will produce a stronger economy and a more democratic state.

Arkansas and the country will benefit if we return to a labor-relations model that respects workersв rights to choose a union and encourages collective bargaining once they have done so. With our current economic crisis, it is now more urgent than ever that we look for ways forward that place well-paid people alongside corporate profits as indicators of economic prosperity. The Employee Free Choice Act will do just that by promoting an orderly path to greater workplace fairness and decent standards. We urge you to support this bill in its current form, and we look forward to its enactment in the near future.

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Margie ColemanBy:
Petition target:
Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln


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